FOOD AND DRINK �
MILK MAKER A cross-bread cow and its calf
HANGING Yogurt production left and the farm’s cheese below
The number of years ago that cow’s milk was first drunk by humans in modern day Iran and Afghanistan.
The number of litres of milk produced annually in the UK today.
The degrees centigrade milk is heated to during HTST pasteurisation. It is heated to 130 degrees during UHT pasteurisation.
“We’ve actually had customers who are lactose intolerant finding they can drink our raw milk”, said Tali. “Everything comes from this single herd of cows”, said Robin.” All the cows we milk are born here. The farm is a self-contained organism in its own right. Winemakers have the term ‘terroir’ to describe the environment’s relationship to the product. We don’t have the language for it in England, and often underestimate the value of something coming all from one place. “Our milk’s affected by the season, what the cows are eating, whether they’ve just calved. Supermarkets hate that variation, but for me it’s about being connected with the food.” “We keep our customers informed about any changes that will affect the products,” said Tali. They appreciate the seasonality. They’re also very understanding of us if we don’t have cream for a month because the calves are drinking all the milk!” With all the apparent positives, cost
rears its ugly head as the only major drawback to raw, organic, food. “It’s a popular idea that eating organic is expensive”, said Robin. “To some extent that’s true. But you’re paying the true cost of food production. It’s heart-breaking to hear about all the producers getting paid less than it costs them. But that’s what can happen if you sell your raw materials to someone else who then adds the value. “There’s a drive to have bigger herds, bigger operations. It’s a shame there’s this money driven trend towards American style mega dairy. And it’s the cows that suffer. If you’ve got a thousand cows, how well can you look after them? “Biodynamic is pretty small at the moment, but it’s growing. The whole foodie culture is having an effect. People are really thinking about what they’re eating and where they get it from.
“We’re not political here, we just get on with it. It’s us against a massive industry that says things are different than how we see them. “You see articles about whether buying organic is value for money, but something never mentioned is that farming isn’t just an economic activity. It’s also a cultural and social one. The subtle qualities we have here, you can’t measure them.” These include the farm’s communal spirit and its ownership structure. “We’re owned by a co-operative”, explained Tali. “There are 660 odd shareholders - a really amazing community who support us. And we have a local customer base. One lady drives five hours to buy our milk!” “Community supported agriculture is one of those labels that often doesn’t mean anything”, said Robin. Here it does. We’re a community of people that live and work on the farm and work hard to support the local community, who are very supportive of us. “There are always a lot of people around here, that’s a feature of organic farms.” “Most full time staff live on the farm”, said Tali. “We also accommodate students coming from agriculture college, and we try to be educational, inviting school groups here for farm based activities.” “We’re trying to pass it on and connect people with their food, said Robin.” We’re an open farm. Anyone can walk around, ask questions and watch the milking. There’s a desire here to demonstrate that a biodynamic, organic farm with a small herd of cows, is viable and profitable. You hear stories from dairy industry about how impossible it is, but there is an alternative to mega dairy. It’s micro dairy.”
20% The percentage of vitamin b6 lost from milk during pasteurisation. Friendly bacteria, immunoglobulin and the enzymes lipase and phosphatase are also lost.
COMING TO TERMS WITH PLAW HATCH FARM Organic – what does it mean?
Organic farming is so called because of the organic matter farmers The approximate number of raw use as an alternative milk producers in the UK. The sale to synthetic fertilisers. of raw milk has been illegal in Organic agriculture is Scotland since 1983. a farming system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and biological activity in soil. It is based on minimal use of offfarm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. Organic agriculture combines tradition, science and innovation to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.
Biodynamic – what does it mean? Biodynamic agriculture is a holistic, extensive form of farming which is organic at heart but pre-dates the modern organic movement. The vitality of the soil and the sustainability of the operation form its foundation. A biodynamic farm functions as a single organism, recognising, respecting and enhancing the basic principles at work in nature. Farm animals are at the centre of everything with special manure and herb-based preparations applied to the fields and compost to stimulate the microbiological life in the soil and improve fertility.
Co-operative ownership -what does it mean? The land and buildings at Plaw Hatch Farm are owned by charity St James’ Trust. A co-operative made up of around 660 local shareholders, who each paid £100 for an unsellable share, owns the farm business. The co-op is governed by a committee, which in turn is elected at the annual AGM by the farm partners. The farm is a limited company with a board of directors answerable to the co-op. The farm management teams make all day-to-day decisions about the enterprises, whilst the co-op committee sets the long term agenda for the wider community initiative.
Wednesday 12th August 2015
Read the August 12th 2015 edition of the Times of Tunbridge Wells.